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What Google’s AI revamp means for content marketing’s future

Last week, Google made one of the most sizable shifts to the search experience in recent memory.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) will no longer return simple lists of links. Instead, most searches will be topped with an AI box pulling information from across the web, summarizing it and offering it up to the user directly on the results page.

In its announcement, Google touts this as a way for users to get answers to more complex answers faster, without the need to sift through multiple sites and piece together the most pertinent, trustworthy information.

But the announcement might send a chill down the spine of content marketers and journalists.

If all the information is served up directly onto the results page, will there be any need at all to visit sites? How will this impact content’s place in the marketing funnel, or the financial incentive for news sites to rank well to earn ad revenue from each click? What about affiliate marketing and the massive amounts of money it can generate?

Google says you shouldn’t be concerned.

“With AI Overviews, people are visiting a greater diversity of websites for help with more complex questions,” the company wrote in the announcement. “And we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query. As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators.

Of course Google would say that: it needs content to fuel this AI search model. So what will this actually mean for content marketers who rely on search?

We asked three SEO experts to look into the future. This is what they said.



What will this mean for traffic

All of the experts we spoke to said it seems likely that, in the long-term, click-through rates from search will decrease as the need to visit a website for your answers fades.

But Rachel Vandernick, founder of The Vander Group, said that the hiccups in the new system could be a boon.

“With the initial propensity for displaying incorrect and wonky AI overviews, we may actually see, at least in the short term, an even higher reliance on traditional search results,” Vandernick said. She noted that the rollout of the product has been rocky, and many SEO experts doubted if the feature would ever be ready for primetime. This could lead to a “healthy skepticism” from users, which might have them scrolling down to review traditional search results.

AI isn’t really new in Google search, said Vandernick. It’s evolving, but that isn’t a cause to panic: it’s just part of the game in SEO.

“There are going to be kinks, and it’s going to take time to roll out in (its) entirety.”

Amerrica Duggan-Torbert, digital marketing specialist at East Tennessee State University, said that while the algorithm can take traffic, it might also be given right back.

“A drop in click-throughs may decrease overall website traffic and lower search results rankings,” she said. “This might negatively affect sales, ad revenue and even brand awareness. However, if your good content is attributed as a source from the AI overview, it could also boost some of these things. Time will tell if the rollout will positively or negatively affect website click-throughs.”

How will content marketing change?

Duggan-Torbert believes good, high-quality, vetted content will become more, not less, important as AI’s influence on daily life grows.

“Many people are hesitant to trust the technology and are looking for subject matter experts to confirm the information AI has given them,” she said. “We need to continue serving as the experts in our fields so people have good sources to rely on.”

Katie Corder, a communications specialist with MCD Global Health, stresses staying laser-focused on your audience. After all, she points out, Google’s top priority is the user experience, not its impact on websites.

“This can be seen as a motivator to get creative in how content is presented because, in the end, it’s all about providing users with accurate and engaging content,” she said.

Vandernick believes that this rollout will, once and for all, tear down the curtain between search and social. This has already eroded over the years as TikTok and YouTube in particular have become dominant search engines.

“Search behavior happens on multiple platforms, not just Google,” she said. “Even though this might change how content is sourced, it doesn’t change the user behavior of seeking. Not only will content rolled out across different channels be valuable from a holistic search strategy perspective, but it’s unclear at this stage exactly how and if Google will use varied content modalities to create its AI content.”

Similarly, Corder recommends doubling down on multimedia, including video (remember, of course, that YouTube is owned by Google) and images, which can also be used as part of the search process.

And Duggan-Torbert says that while robots might be summarizing the news, the end goal is still reaching a very human audience.

“While content marketing is often written with search engine rankings in mind, don’t forget to write for humans first. Think of the way your target audience thinks, talks, and acts, and make sure your content reflects that. That human-first approach to content might help some of your writing be featured in the AI summaries.”

Above all, take a deep breath.

“Learn the tools, read the news, and anticipate upcoming changes, but don’t revamp your strategy every time something new rolls out,” Duggan-Torbert said.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on X or LinkedIn.


Originally Appeared Here

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